Literacy Tips

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of November 12th

posted Nov 12, 2017, 6:07 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Nov 12, 2017, 6:09 PM ]

Literacy Tip
I recently worked with a fourth-grade teacher in North Carolina on The Next Step Forward Framework. She explained to me that the most enlightening part of the lesson for her was the word study. She expressed how as an intermediate teacher she never felt competent teaching “phonics” because she wasn’t “taught” how to teach it. With Appendix A (p. 289ff in The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading) and the use of the Word Knowledge Inventory (page 324) she felt confident that she could analyze her students’ needs and help fill-in the phonics holes for students who are struggling and need intervention. These students needed systematic word study instruction in meaningful and interactive ways. The best part of this story was the teacher said all her students LOVE WORD STUDY and never want her to skip it.
By following the Appendix and the Word Study procedures laid out in Jan’s book, you can teach phonics using the most efficient, effective, and engaging activities. 
Written by: Sandra Weaver, Next Steps Guided Reading consultant

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of November 5th

posted Nov 5, 2017, 6:12 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Nov 6, 2017, 9:49 AM ]

Teach Students to Make a “Spock” Inference

Spock, the First Officer of the Enterprise, is a Vulcan. He has been taught his whole life to be very technical, never lie and always follow regulations. Making an inference is not in his DNA. In the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), the Enterprise crew is trying to save the earth. In order to complete this task, Spock must make calculations for the Enterprise to boomerang around the sun to go back in time. 
When Captain Kirk asks Spock for the calculations to boomerang around the sun, Spock tells Captain Kirk that he cannot solve this problem because the answer is not obvious or “right there.” Captain Kirk looks at Spock’s quizzical face as Spock sits at his science station and tells Spock to make his best guess. Spock has never made an inference or guess before but he knows in order to save the Earth he must infer. He must use information from his science station computer and his background knowledge in order to find a solution. The current Earth can only be saved if Spock believes in the inference he makes and then follows through. 
I play this scene from the movie to teach my students what an inference is. As readers they must use the information in the text and their background knowledge to make their best guess. My Spock bobble head sits in the front of our room and is always a part of our language arts block. It reminds the students that reading has challenges but nothing that cannot be overcome if they always go into their strategy toolbox and use the right tool for the task. Spock is our inference tool.

Written by: Corrie Wright, 5th grade teacher, ​Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Contact: wright@fccps.org / wrightcag@hotmail.com

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of October 29th

posted Oct 29, 2017, 2:04 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Oct 29, 2017, 2:08 PM ]

Using Next Step Forward in Guided Reading for Whole-Class Focus Lessons

As a reading specialist, I adapted Jan’s lesson plan for whole-class lessons so I could link the focus to our state and county standards. First, I collected about 20 Mentor Texts to match one of the comprehension strategies in Chapter 7 of Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (Richardson, 2016).  I would often use the same mentor text for several days but selected different comprehension strategies. This encouraged children to use flexible thinking skills. The thinking, not the text, was goal of the lesson. I linked the lessons to our state standards as well. You can see an example on pages 21-25 in the NSFGR Study Guide. Using Wemberley Worried by Kevin Henkes, and linking it to several Chapter 7 strategies supported student thinking in a whole group focus lesson. By listing the strategy and the standard, teachers help focus their practice. You can find the blank template for a whole-class lesson on Jan’s resource page. 
An effective way to plan as a team is to make one team meeting a month a ‘make and take’ session. Teachers come with at least two whole-class plans for one of their mentor texts. After each member of the team shares their plans, the lessons are uploaded to a shared folder. Over a period of months, the grade level team will have created a bank of strong, targeted and effective focus lessons that support the standards. 
Using Jan’s adapted lesson plan with mentor texts encourages teachers to work as a team and teach their strategy focus lesson with purpose and clarity. By modeling a strategy in whole class lessons, you will strengthen your students’ thinking and provide echoes throughout the guided reading lessons.
Written by: Ellen Lewis, Next Step Consultant (ellenlewis100@gmail.com) 

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of October 22nd

posted Oct 22, 2017, 3:42 PM by Courtney Richardson

Guided Writing Stems

In North Carolina we assess students' reading skills using a web-based platform called Reading 3D. A component of this assessment tests students' ability to complete two written comprehension prompts about each story they read, in addition to answering oral comprehension questions. As a school, we quickly realized that even though students would show proficiency in their accuracy, fluency, and oral comprehension, students consistently would “drop back” several levels due to their written comprehension. After analyzing student data we decided they needed more practice and direct teaching about how to answer a written comprehension prompt. Our students were already receiving differentiated guided reading instruction, using Dr. Richardson’s framework. We harnessed this opportunity to focus and align our writing prompts with the common core state standards. With this need in mind, we created our “Guided Writing Stems” reference sheet. This document includes multiple writing prompts for each level, addressing both fiction and nonfiction. Teachers are able to target written prompts by guided reading level and keep track of which prompts they have taught. You can find our prompts on Jan’s website.
As a school we have seen progress in our overall Reading 3D data because teachers are able to target written comprehension prompts based on student needs. We will continue to use our “Guided Writing Stems” reference sheet when planning guided reading lessons to help ensure students are given the opportunity to learn and practice answering written comprehension prompts and ultimately show growth in their Reading 3D data.     

Written by:  by Erica Castillo, Lead teacher, Ramseur Elementary, NC 

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of October 15th

posted Oct 16, 2017, 7:40 AM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Oct 16, 2017, 7:41 AM ]

Teaching Students to Monitor Their Reading

Early on in the reading process, it is important to teach students to check the accuracy of their reading by using visual information. They accomplish this by checking the first letter of a word. As students progress in their reading, they will encounter larger, more difficult words, so they’ll need to check beyond that first letter.
There are a few places in a guided reading lesson where you can demonstrate how to check the visual information. In this video, Dr. Michal Taylor, a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader and literacy consultant, works with students who are reading The Shoemaker and the Elves, a level H book.
You can read the full article here.
Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tips of the Week: Week of October 8th

posted Oct 9, 2017, 3:04 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Oct 9, 2017, 3:04 PM ]

Guided Writing Stems 

In North Carolina we assess student’s reading skills using a web-based platform called Reading 3D. A component of this assessment tests student’s ability to complete two written comprehension prompts about each story they read, in addition to answering oral comprehension questions. As a school, we quickly realized that even though students would show proficiency in their accuracy, fluency, and oral comprehension, students consistently would “drop back” several levels due to their written comprehension. After analyzing student data we decided they needed more practice and direct teaching about how to answer a written comprehension prompt. Our students were already receiving differentiated guided reading instruction, using Dr. Richardson’s framework. We harnessed this opportunity to focus and align our writing prompts with the common core state standards. With this need in mind, we created our “Guided Writing Stems” reference sheet. This document includes multiple writing prompts for each level, addressing both fiction and nonfiction. Teachers are able to target written prompts by guided reading level and keep track of which prompts they have taught. You can find our prompts on Jan’s website http://bit.ly/2vVx1pS.
As a school we have seen progress in our overall Reading 3D data because teachers are able to target written comprehension prompts based on student needs. We will continue to use our “Guided Writing Stems” reference sheet when planning guided reading lessons to help ensure students are given the opportunity to learn and practice answering written comprehension prompts and ultimately show growth in their Reading 3D data.  

Written by by Erica Castillo, Lead teacher, Ramseur Elementary, NC    

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of October 1st

posted Oct 1, 2017, 6:04 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Oct 1, 2017, 6:04 PM ]

How to Teach Cause and Effect

Teaching students how to locate cause and effect in the text can help them learn how to analyze relationships between people, events, and ideas. To begin, introduce cause and effect to students using very simple stories. Familiar tales such as The Three Little Pigs can provide a great starting point. Once students read at level N or higher, you can begin to ask them to think of their own What caused questions. 
Check out this video that shows a lesson from the new Literacy Footprints Third Grade guided reading system, which will be available in fall 2017. Here you’ll see Jan Richardson working with a group of third graders in North Carolina using Trains, a level N book. This was the first time these students worked with cause and effect in their guided reading lesson. 

Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of September 24th

posted Sep 25, 2017, 5:47 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Sep 25, 2017, 5:47 PM ]

Helping Beginning Readers to Cross-Check

Beginning readers need to learn to check one kind of information with another; this is called cross-checking. Students might check meaning with visual information. They also may check that the words they say match the number of words they point to. Cross-checking leads to self-correction or, at the very least, helps students to stop and notice when something isn’t right. This step is an important part of developing a strong processing system. As teachers, we need to set up opportunities for students to cross-check and then teach, prompt, and reinforce it.
To learn more and watch a video of literacy expert Jan Richardson showing cross-checking in action, check out my full blog post
Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of September 17th

posted Sep 19, 2017, 8:35 AM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Sep 19, 2017, 8:36 AM ]

Analyzing Relationships: Using Compare and Contrast

Learning to compare and contrast different ideas deepens students’ understanding of what they read. How should you begin? Have students think of a question that compares and contrasts concepts, characters, or story elements. This can work for both fiction and nonfiction books. You can introduce this during a whole-class read aloud. You might ask students to compare two characters in a story or two different stories they have heard. Comparing and contrasting key ideas in nonfiction may present some challenges. However, learning this strategy will help students better understand increasingly complex text they read as they advance through grade levels.
Watch this video of literacy expert Jan Richardson working on compare and contrast with second graders. Note how Jan first models how to do the task and then supports students as they compare and contrast and then begin writing. She provides extra support with the Yellow Questions card from our Comprehension Box Set.
Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of September 10th

posted Sep 8, 2017, 12:23 PM by Courtney Richardson

International Literacy Day

September 9 is International Literacy Day. Help children become lifelong readers by inspiring them to read at home and school. Research from Scholastic shows that when kids have a large home library, they are more likely to be read books for pleasure 5–7 days a week. The research also provides actionable takeaways any family can embrace to inspire a culture of reading at home, including:

  • Ask family members, friends, librarians and teachers for book recommendations: In each country, children ages 6–17 find their best book ideas from many different people and places. Top sources are:
    • 51% of kids in the U.S. say teachers and school librarians
    • 45% of kids in the U.K report the library
    • 72% and 82% of kids in Australia and India, respectively, look to their parents
    • 50% of kids in Canada get ideas from friends, siblings or cousins.
  • Find books that make kids laugh: “Make me laugh” is the #1 quality kids ages 6–17 look for when choosing books to read for fun (42% U.S., 63% U.K., 61% Australia, 62%, India, and 46% Canada).
  • Set aside time to read aloud together—and keep it going as a child gets older: An overwhelming majority of children ages 6–17 reported they love (or loved) read aloud time at home and the top reason was “it’s a special time with my parent,” yet many parents stop reading aloud at age six.

Encourage home reading and give personal book recommendations ​to your students based on their interests.

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